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GRC Personalities // Tyler Benson: Adaptation and the Learning Curve

October 9, 2013
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Before racing in GRC Lites, I had a lot of experience racing speedboats and ATVs. There are definitely a lot of similarities and a lot of things that transfer over, like being comfortable with that line between being in control and out of control. You’re pushing it to the edge and getting comfortable with that, so when the car does something you don’t quite expect, you’re not overreacting and making it worse—you make slight corrections. There are a lot of things like that that transfer.

But one of the big things that’s different, that you have to get used to, is going that hard for that long. You get into your car and rip it down a section of road, and hit it awesome, and that might be a minute or two, max. But doing GRC Lites, you have to be on that edge, and comfortable with pushing hard, for six or 10 laps just getting used to doing that and staying focused.

Anyone who says that driving isn’t a sport, or that they’re not real athletes—growing up, playing football, I never felt more physically abused and tired, or mentally drained, after a football game than I did after a racing event. It’s way more taxing on the body than the average person thinks. They think it’s driving your car around, but faster.

For years and years, I was trying to get into racing via my connection with Hyundai—our dealership being, every month, one of the top three dealers or the top Hyundai dealer. And every time Rhys Millen had an east coast event, he or one of his guys would call me up and see if they could keep the car there, and we would keep the rig at our farm. We just developed a good relationship over time where we’d let him use space to wrench on the car.

When Rhys first got into rallycross, the first car he bought, when it had an Elantra body, he brought over from Europe, and he sat in the car for the first time at my dealership. It was sent from overseas in a crate to the dealership, and I watched it get wrapped, him sitting in it, and he told me that they were going to put the Veloster body on it.

We tried to work stuff out to get me in a car for years. We would always come real close to having our foot in the door, and then something would happen where it wasn’t possible. Finally, the Lites division came out, and I caught wind of it. I thought, “This is perfect—let me see if there’s any way I can get into this.” Luckily, I did, and now I’m just trying to keep it going from there.

In Atlanta, as I understood it, it was kind of a test for me to see if I could even hang, or if I was just blowing smoke. My thing was, show them that you know what you’re doing, but at the same time don’t overcook it, do something stupid, and end up hurting the car. I realized that these other guys that had three races under their belt, they’re already in a points race, and I didn’t want to go in there and get in the way and mess it up for the other guys. I just wanted to go in, keep it clean, and show them I could do this.

They told me I could come back and do it again at Charlotte, and I picked it up a notch. I’m still not getting a lot of time with the car, but I felt more comfortable with it, like I could push it a bit harder and show them a bit more, be a little bit more aggressive, but still be considerate of what’s going on around me with all the other guys. I didn’t go out there and expect to be battling with them and getting in their way.

I feel like, had I been able to get in from the very start, I would be a top five contender for sure. I feel like it’s about getting know the car, and with the learning curve I’m just trying to play catch up.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish